Funk, Priesthood, Military & Jobs – UPDATED

I know that header could describe the state of the whole nation, right now; we’re in a funk.

But really, I am simply down with a bit of a fever/sore throat/immune system thing, and shivers. So I am taking it easy today.

Woke up with this on my mind, though:
“someone’s son has to be the priest; someone’s child must be the soldier, and the cop.” I have no idea why that was with me. When my kids were growing up my husband and I always made it clear that whatever would make them happy -including the priesthood or the military or law enforcement- we’d support them in their choice.

The priesthood was tricky, of course. Neither of us wanted the kids to feel pressured to become priests -that’s a calling that parents can help their child hear, but cannot themselves make or demand- but we did let them know that when thinking “what they wanted to be when they grew up” they should think specifically in terms of vocation, not “jobs” or even “career” but “calling. Were they called to a married state or a single one or a religious one? Were they called to public service, or to academia? Had we had daughters, we would have said the same, letting them know that the religious life was certainly on the table of vocation choices they should consider.

Neither of our sons feel especially “called” to standard 9 to 5 corporate work, although I suspect Elder Son might consider studying engineering, if he had it to do again. Both are inventive; Elder son, currently looking for any work, simply to be practical, has the heart of an inventor. Buster is still in school. The priesthood was an annoying attraction for him -a notion that kept popping up and he would wrestle back down to the ground- because he has always wanted marriage and a family. Now, of course, he is wondering if Roman Catholic Anglicanism (or, Anglican-Rite Catholicism; what are we going to call that?) might not -eventually- become something that puts all of that before him.

I’m feeling too icky to get into all the controversy about married priests, women priests, celibacy, etc. All I know is Buddhists never have to put up with people sneering at them about a celibate all-male priesthood the way the Catholics do, which kind of de-legitimizes the “concerns” of the sneerers, in my mind. It’s quite amazing to me that the Dalai Lama and the Pope can hold nearly identical positions but one is considered “enlightened” and the other is accused of leading us into “the dark ages.”

Anyway, before I head back to the couch with a bit of tea, how about a poll?

If you are Catholic, have you encouraged or discouraged your child to consider the priesthood or religious life?
Encouraged
Discouraged
Actually never thought about it at all
It never came up
  
pollcode.com free polls
How important is a Eucharistic Church, to you?
I’m Catholic; Very Important
I’m Catholic; Unimportant
Non-Catholic; Very Important
Non-Catholic; Unimportant
Undecided
Not sure what it means
  
pollcode.com free polls
Would you support your child’s choice to serve in military?
Yes, anytime
Only under certain presidents
No, never
I’d first try to dissuade
Unsure
  
pollcode.com free polls
Did you ever consider ministry or military, yourself?
Yes
No
  
pollcode.com free polls
If NO, do you regret not considering it?
Yes
No
  
pollcode.com free polls
Are you satisfied with your career choices?
Yes, very
Yes, for the most part
Sometimes
Rarely
No, but I had few choices
No, but it’s too late to change
No, I hate my job
  
pollcode.com free polls

Finally, knowing what you know now would you do things very differently in your life, or would you mostly have done the same?

For me, it took me a long time to figure out that what I thought I had wanted would have been a bad -even disasterous- choice, and that in the end, God blessed me and gifted me much more than I deserved (or even understood) by putting me where he did. That’s not to say I don’t regret certain days or actions -there are a some days, some rants, some selfish moves and more than a few sins I wish I could “take back” and do over, this time making better choices- but all-in-all, I’d rather have my life as it has unfolded. Thank you, Lord. Amen.

UPDATE I:
Kim Priestap’s nephew takes his oath

UPDATE II:
Deacon Greg notes a bit of serendipity: “did you know next week is Vocation Awareness Week?” Actually, I didn’t know it. Perhaps that is why I woke up with that question being whispered in my ear? He has a nice piece up about the wives of deacons, who embody another sort of vocation. And Webster sings the praises of his Ace

UPDATE III:
The vocation of parenthood – a very great mystery. I don’t know how I could get through a single day as a parent, without faith.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://www.protocatholic.blogspot.com Gretchen

    Funny you mention this stuff. I’ve got a nineteen year old daughter who is off to see a military recruiter today. Although I believe that the military is especially dangerous when a Democrat is in office, my husband and I support her in whatever decision she makes. She’s got a year of college under her belt, but she’s restless to get out in the world.

    [Yeah, I have one of those restless kids... :-) -admin]

  • Sue from Buffalo

    I would have made several important changes in my life. Having said that…I love where God has placed me. He gave me much much more than I deserve. Thank you, Lord.

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  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Having asked the question many times myself, notwithstanding the fact that I am still single, I believe I am called to the married life, even if that calling is never fulfilled. Besides, while I could see myself doing the job of a priest, the priesthood is not a job, a priest is not what you do, it is who you are. And the nature of the Sacrament of Holy Orders (the priesthood) is such that it is incompatable with the Sacrament of Matrimony.

    Although Christ has given the Church the authority to bind us to this or that, and thus has permitted married priests coming in from other churches, and has long called the celibate priesthood only a discipline, it is increasingly clear over the centuries that it is more than a discipline, that priesthood and married life are theologically incompatible. Being espoused to the Church, how can the priest have any other spouse? And then there is the purely practical consideration of not having “two masters” — a conflict of interest inevitably arises in who to put first, the Church or the wife. A good priest would make a bad husband and a good husband would make a bad priest. Thus, even if the Church were to allow married priests generally, I would not be one.

    As for what I want to do when I grow up? I don’t know. I still haven’t figured that one out.

  • VR

    I was drafted during VietNam – It made a big change in my life direction.

  • Mere Catholic

    It may be interesting to note that the Dalai Lama and the Pope hold similar viewpoints, but I wish you’d refrained from linking to a YouTube video which was uploaded by one who calls the Dalai Lama “a c**ks***ker”. I hardly think one makes the Christian religion worth contemplating by denigrating the beliefs or spiritual leaders of other religions.

    [I am not sure what you're talking about? Did people say that on the video? I am partially deaf and will have to check it out. Ah, I see, part of the commentary of the uploader. I don't approve; you're quite right that denigrating the Dalai Lama does nothing to flatter another religion. But that wasn't the point of the link, so I will let it stand -admin]

  • http://thegameiam.livejournal.com David

    In Orthodox Jewish circles, a pulpit rabbi is pretty much required to be married – unmarried rabbis serve as assistant rabbis or community functionaries in a variety of other modes, but I’ve never encountered a “main” rabbi of a synagogue who was unmarried.

  • http://www.netministries.org/see/churches/ch05703 Fr Bill

    I AM a priest. I am a catholic, just not a Romanist. Eucharist is paramount here.

  • http://www.aol.com exhelodrvr

    Not Catholic (so didn’t vote in the poll). I’m retired military, now in the IT field, my wife is an artist, and we are active in our church. We tried not to (subconsciously) pressure our children in a particular career direction.

    We did insist on them being regular participants in church, Sunday School, and church youth group, and in putting in a reasonable effort in their studies.

    Our oldest daughter is a chruch youth worker, son is just starting Navy pilot training, and youngest daughter is still in school. (She tried ROTC for a year, and chose not to continue. We thought that was the right decision for her.) If we were Catholic, I wouldn’t specifically encourage them to be a priest/nun, but certainly wouldn’t discourage it if that is what they felt called to do.

  • anniebird

    I don’t know Buster except through what you’ve shared about him on this blog. Aside from sounding like a really wonderful young man, I think he’d be a powerful priest – he has had some extraordinary insights, and I’ve been grateful for being able to share them through your writing. Of course, as the mother of four girls, I also think he’d be a terrific husband and father. Perhaps Buster has been blessed with many possible paths of service – an embarassment of riches! I hope God will bless with many good things both your boys, your husband and you, Elizabeth.

  • http://www.firstthings.com Michael Liccione

    …it is increasingly clear over the centuries that it is more than a discipline, that priesthood and married life are theologically incompatible.

    If that’s the case, then Rome has been committing a 2,000-year-old theological error in permitting the Eastern-Catholic churches to ordain married men. Also, John Paul II, a theologically sophisticated supporter of the celibacy discipline, must have made a theological error in promulgating the Pastoral Provision.

    Somehow I think Rome is more likely to be right than you.

    Your argument depends on assuming that the priest’s role in persona Christi requires that he signify Christ the Bridegroom not merely at the altar but 24/7. No doubt 24/7 can be more edifying and useful, and many have that vocation. But as the Church has always recognized, it is not essential to the priesthood. Let’s not make the best the enemy of the good. We have enough problems right now.

  • MJ

    As a Deacon’s wife, I thank you for the link to Deacon Greg’s piece about the wives and widows in CT. Many people aren’t aware of what the Permanent Deacon really does in the Church and in parishes.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    If that’s the case, then Rome has been committing a 2,000-year-old theological error in permitting the Eastern-Catholic churches to ordain married men.

    If you are going to quote me, please use the entire quote, including the prior sentence — “Christ has given the Church the authority to bind us to this or that, and thus has permitted married priests coming in from other churches.”

    Moreover, a priest is a priest all the time, not merely “at the altar,” but “24/7.” A priest is not what he does, but who he is, the priesthood is a state of being, not an occupation. At no time during the day can he be anything but what he is, a priest, an alter Christus, who is thereby espoused to the Church.

  • Iris Celeste

    I actually have a question this brings up… Once during prayer I got a very strong impression that Mary wanted me to consecrate my nephew to her immaculate heart. At the time all I could respond was, “he’s only a child; how can I make such a choice for him? He is also being raised Methodist, where would I even begin to introduce him to you. I can’t at this time, but I’ll try to introduce him to you.” Afterwards I felt I was wrong in not just consecrating him to her and letting her handle the details. I would love to hear what others think.

  • http://www.firstthings.com Michael Liccione

    Bender, you’re trying to square the circle. On the one hand, you acknowledge that the Church permits the ordination of married men in the contexts indicated, and you don’t criticize that. On the other hand, you keep insisting that marriage and priesthood are theologically incompatible. So either the Church is committing a theological error or you are. You can’t have it both ways.

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  • http://salesianity.blogspot.com/ Padre Steve

    Thanks for the thoughtful post on vocation! It is a great reminder to put the issue front and center next week! Be assured of my gratitude for your great work and of my prayers!

  • http://fineoldfamly.blogspot.com Sally Thomas

    We’ve always said that we will support our children’s doing what makes them happy, what’s right for them, and what God wants them to do, all of which amounts to the same thing: what engenders human flourishing, for each of them.

    I have had some intense “vocation” conversations with my 16-year-old in the last year — she is quite drawn to the religious life, though she says that she thinks God has her marked for marriage and motherhood. I don’t know how much actual “encouraging” I’ve done, other than listen and put her in the way of good priests and, when we can get them, nuns, and help her find good things to read.

    We do talk quite a bit about how these vocational thoughts affect plans about college, for example — if your game plan includes marriage as a priority, not to be deliberately deferred by career aspirations, or if you think you might want to join a religious order, then maybe you think twice about incurring a huge load of student-loan debt. (of course, having an academic father and a place you can go for free gives you a way to avoid that debt load which isn’t as readily available to everyone — a luxury, I realize).

    As for my own career choices and goals — well, they were pretty modest. I always knew that I wanted children, so any choices I made were arranged around that. Otherwise, I was writing, and spent some time in graduate school trying to figure out how to *be* a writer . . . turns out, it’s a great job to have with children, the luxury of working at home, for myself, doing things the way I want far outweighing whatever distractions and time constraints there are, not to mention the remunerative deficits. Actually, to get paid at all, ever, for what’s essentially an obsessive-compulsive habit, seems like a huge score to me.

    Re the priesthood and marriage: my family and I are converts to Catholicism, and my husband is a former Anglican priest who laid down his orders, and a great part of himself, to become Catholic. The possibility of his taking Roman orders one day is an active one, since a way exists for that to happen. Our sons’ understanding, on the other hand, is that if their vocation is to the priesthood, then it will not be to marriage. Of course, right now they’re seven and twelve, so: cool! And our parish priest is the kind of priest who makes that look even cooler. We shall see . . .

    How relevant the Anglicanorum Coetibus would be to our sons’ possible priestly vocations is questionable, anyway. The younger one stopped being Anglican when he was four, and we have not been Anglican-Use Catholics, just plain ol’ Latin Catholics with an Anglican history. But it’s my understanding that that document doesn’t really pave the way much for any fundamental change in the process of pursuing holy orders for people not already Anglican priests at their conversion. It just simplifies the protocols for those who would be eligible under the pre-existing Pastoral Provision. I think.

    Hope the funk turns you loose soon, dear Anchoress.

  • Bill Badger

    You said, “someone’s son has to be the priest; someone’s child must be the soldier, and the cop.”

    How true. I was one. I was a solider for 25 years. I came from a long line of such sons, and passed something of it to my own son.

    My father was in the Air Force for 27 years. His father was a doughboy in World War I.

    My oldest son decided in his teens to become a Marine. He enlisted right after he graduated from high school.

    When asked why he volunteered to be a Marine rifleman in time of war, my son paraphrase Isaiah 6:8 by saying, “God asked who would go to war and I raised my hand.”

    My son, Lance Corporal Travis Babine, and three brother Marines were killed by an IED in Afghanistan on 6 August 2009.

    The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

    [I got chills reading this. Please accept my condolences on the loss of your son, and my thanks for his service. You will be together again. -A]

  • Maggie

    Mr. Badger, Thank you for your sacrifice and your son’s service. Semper Fi. You raised a hero.

    I, on a whim, joined the Marine Corps out of high school. I literally made the decision after seeing a commercial and enlisted the next day without my parent’s knowledge (I was over 18). I realize now that it was God speaking to me. I served in relatively quiet time.

    My husband (retired fighter pilot USMC) and I have one son who recenlty graduated from the Naval Academy and are rasing the remander to believe that serving your country is an honor.

    I will encourage my children to consider military service because we owe so much of our blessings to this country.

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  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    either the Church is committing a theological error or you are. You can’t have it both ways.

    Sure I can. Just as Moses was permitted divorce, as Jesus pointed out, even though that is not the way it is supposed to be.

    But even the Orthodox Churches which allow married priests recognize that one with the fullness of Holy Orders, that is, the bishop, cannot be married. Why? Because the fullness of Holy Orders is incompatible with Matrimony.

  • http://gregorys-rantsite.blogspot.com Gregory

    Bender: Regretfully, your statements fly in the face of reality.

    1. Fact: St Peter, the rock upon which Christ built His church, was married.

    2. Fact: St Paul remind Timothy that “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;” (1 Tim 3:2)

    3. Fact: The association of ordination and celibacy is neither doctrine, nor dogma, but discipline, and the first millennium of the Church’s existence did not worry too much about it.

    The two institutions (as neither are sacraments) of priesthood and marriage are not mutually exclusive, and in almost all other Christian groups and traditions, even the highest archbishop can be married.

  • http://www.firstthings.com Michael Liccione

    So Bender, now you’re saying that the Catholic Church permits some married priests for the same sort of reason that Moses permitted divorce: as a mere concession to weakness and hardness of heart. That’s you speaking, not the Church. I’ve never heard a pope or theologian say that, which is why you’d get a sharp reaction if you told it to the married Eastern-rite priests. In general, Eastern-rite Catholics are very sensitive to Latin triumphalism.

    If that doesn’t weigh with you, consider this: we may safely assume that St. Paul taught what Jesus did about marriage; yet in his first letter to Timothy (3: 12), Paul says that bishops may be married only once. So if marriage and priesthood are “theologically incompatible,” then either Paul didn’t fully understand Jesus on priesthood or he didn’t fully understand Jesus about marriage. Are you prepared to embrace either consequence rather than give up your own personal view? If so, you have bigger problems than just a faulty theological opinion.

    As for the Orthodox (and Eastern Catholics) coming to restrict the episcopacy to celibates by the fifth century, there was a purely practical reason for that: bishops were selected from among the monks because, with that background, they were more likely to have been insulated from political pressures and scandal. Those factors had become a huge problem during the protracted Arian controversy. What that shows, I believe, is that celibacy is an objectively better state than marriage for a priest. I agree with that. But of course it does not follow that celibacy is the only state theologically compatible with priesthood. Just as some celibate priests have been nightmares, some married priests have been holy and effective priests.

    The mistake you’re making is common among pious folk: turning the best into the enemy of the good. If only for your own sake, give it up.

  • http://www.winefredswell.blogspot.com Winefred

    I have three sons, and two of them joined the American military (one was a bit of a surprise in that, the other not at all) — and they were raised in Canada! This left their Canadian father a little perplexed, and yet it was probably his passion for military history (and those Civil War battlefield vacations) that drove their decision as much as anything else. For most of their young lives I privately prayed every day that one would become a priest, but gave it up when it became clear that was not in the cards. I’m grandma-times-two now, and experiencing the fact that it’s just a whole new set of hopes and fears. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it ain’t for the faint of heart.

  • cathyf

    In Orthodox Jewish circles, a pulpit rabbi is pretty much required to be married – unmarried rabbis serve as assistant rabbis or community functionaries in a variety of other modes, but I’ve never encountered a “main” rabbi of a synagogue who was unmarried.

    From what I understand, in practical terms, Orthodox rabbis (and also very conservative Christian ministers) do not minister to women in their congregations. The rabbi’s wife (or pastor’s wife) ministers to the women and girls, while the rabbi (or pastor) does not have much contact with any females outside of immediate family. I have heard passing comments that in the Eastern Rites a priest’s wife has some sort of implicit ministry, but I don’t really know how that compares with a rebbitzin or pastor’s wife.

    The Catholic Church is already pretty ambivalent about having any obligation to minister to women, and the opportunity to fob it off on the priest’s wife is not going to make that any better.

  • http://gregorys-rantsite.blogspot.com Gregory

    cathyf: Best if they didn’t, really.

    Ministering to women can be a touchy issue. At the minimum in our church, it cannot be done one-on-one; it must involve at least two priests (or one ‘pastor’ and a witness).

    Unless it’s the wife, then one on one is fine. And you know some women would prefer not to have men around on certain topics.

    But the women must not minister to (exert authority on) men. I think that’s an ironclad one.

  • cathyf

    At the minimum in our church, it cannot be done one-on-one; it must involve at least two priests (or one ‘pastor’ and a witness).

    How very sad… I think of how impoverishing it would be to my spiritual life to have to operate under those constraints.

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